CHINA 1957 A Forbidden Journey
Wednesday, 2 March 2005
2/F Sports House, So Kong Po, Causeway Bay
Drinks 6.30 pm; Lecture 7.30 pm In July 1957, while reading for a Doctorate at the Sorbonne, US Army veteran Robert Cohen was visiting Moscow when a group of young Americans was invited to tour China. Despite US citizens being banned from travel to China by their State Department, Mr. Cohen accepted assignment as an NBCTV Special Correspondent to report on the journey. His films of that six week, 9,000 mile adventure in the midst of the Cold War were televised worldwide on the "Today Show" and "The Chet Huntley News". Returning to the US, his passport was temporarily revoked. In 1961, under newlyelected US President John Fitzgerald Kennedy, Mr. Cohen received a letter of commendation from the State Department. In this lecture, illustrated by his evocative photography, he first describes his travels in 1957 from Moscow to Beijing for nine days on the TransSiberian Railway, with Mongol horseman racing alongside the tracks. Once in China, he visited among other cities Harbin, Changchun, Tientsin, Beijing and Nanking. This included being taken via bus, Land Rover and rowboat to the site of a suppressed demonstration on the outskirts of Wuhan, interrogating the "Chief Prostitute Reformer" of Shanghai and visiting the humanityjammed sampans of Canton. He also encountered leading figures such as Marshals Chu Teh and Ho Lung and interviewed Premier Chou En Lai. Mr. Cohen then, from the perspective gained from multiple subsequent visits during the last 48 years, contrasts the developmentinhibiting "struggle meetings" of 1957, when China's population was 650 million, with today's virtually unregulated explosive growth of industry and commerce and the resultant problems posed by one billion three hundred million inhabitants. With a Masters Degree in Motion Pictures from UCLA, and Doctoral studies at the Sorbonne, Cinema at USC, and a Fellowship in Direct Broadcast Satellite Communication Policy at the Annenberg Institute, Robert Cohen has been responsible for original works in many controversial areas. The first American to film in China (1957), he also became the first US citizen to film inside East Germany (1959 & 1961) and inside Castro's Cuba (19631964). He has encountered, filmed, photographed and interviewed leading figures from Hungarian Premier Janos Kadar, to Cuban revolutionaries Fidel Castro and Che Guevara, to French writer Jean Genet, to former US President George Bush. After years as a public lecturer in the US and Canada he published the books, The Color of Man, a popular science text dealing with the geneticenvironmental basis of skin color variations among large human populations, and Black Crusader, a biography of armed selfdefense US civil rights advocate Robert Franklin Williams. He is the author and producer of many other books and films and is presently editing "The New American Revolution Voices of Dissent", featuring declarations by liberal political activists including actor Robert Redford, environmental attorney Robert Kennedy Jr., former US Secretary of State Madeleine K. Albright and former US First Lady & present Senator from New York Hillary Rodham Clinton. Members and their guests are most welcome to attend this lecture, which is HK$50 for Members, HK$100 for Members' guests and HK$150 for others.